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Year C, Christ the King, 2016 – Kings and Things

November 15, 2016 / Molly Douthett / Christ the King

Welcome back to More Than Hearing! We are at the end of Liturgical Year C – wow. We still have some 2016 to get through but for our Lectionary purposes, we are at the end. For this last Sunday when we recognize Christ as King, the Old Testament issues a warning to the shepherd kings of Israel that God will attend to them the way they have not been attending the sheep, and that is not good news for them. The Good News for the sheep is that a new shepherd is coming, one that will embody God’s righteousness. The New Testament lesson from Colossians shows Jesus is first in everything created and first in everything re-created, and we, as his followers, share in that inheritance now and in the time to come. Finally, the Gospel lesson is Luke’s version of the crucifixion where Jesus is mocked for being the king of the Jews, hanging on a cross. Only one person in the story understands that something else is happening and asks to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom.

An Aside

We recorded this podcast the day after the U.S. General Election. We have some words about that in the podcast itself. David wrote a prayer for preachers entering pulpits on November 13 (and subsequent weeks, too), who might find themselves walking a very fine line leading their sheep. We have had a little bit of time pass since then, but I don’t think it is ever a bad idea to hold one another in our hearts and prayers as we lead God’s people and preach the Word. So, here is the prayer we prayed in this week’s podcast that I suspect may still have some relevance. God’s blessing on you all as you listen to the Shepherd and love your sheep.

Jesus Christ, Savior full of grace, as we record this show reflecting on the texts for Christ the King Sunday, wherein we hear once more of your sacrificial death on the cross on behalf of those who acted as your enemies, who taunted and reviled you, who crushed your glorious life, so that by your blood you could reconcile even them to God, grant that same love, mercy, and grace to the people of the United States. While many are hoping for change through this election, many others are deeply afraid of what change may come. So pour out your Holy Spirit to give rise to compassion, unity, justice, goodness, and hope for all your people. Especially, we pray for preachers who must bring words of grace to those who rejoice and those who mourn, to those who exalt and those who tremble in fear, all in the same room. O Holy LOGOS, grant your wisdom and self-giving spirit to all who climb into the pulpit in these days. Rise, O Sun of righteousness, with healing in your wings! Amen.

 

This week’s texts are:

Jeremiah 23:1-6 [04:47] – David and I both grew up in the suburbs, and while I had the opportunity to travel to my grandfather’s farm every year while growing up, I did not have any exposure to sheep nor the challenges of caring for them. Being “city” kids, we are at a disadvantage whenever Scripture texts turn explicitly to the ovine arts. However, Google is a friend, and for Eye smart, we found some videos of shepherding in action and what happens when the shepherd falls asleep. One of the great advantages of flocks is the sheer numbers of them which means predators have to work hard to find a meal. In Body smart, we remember the difficulties of being “it” playing tag. The promise of God’s attention for the shepherd kings of Israel is truly not a good thing for them; God is coming, and for them this will be like getting near a blast furnace, which we talk about in Nature smart. God promises the people a new leader, a righteous branch, which is also referred to in Isaiah as a shoot from the stump of Jesse. We look at shoots on trees and why that happens. In People and Self smart, we remember times when we felt cared for and ask people to describe safety.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [06:46] –

{MWD} People:  We read about God’s desire for God’s people frequently throughout Scripture and many metaphors are applied to illuminate that longing. In this passage, the metaphor is shepherding which points to the responsibility of those in leadership to see to their people on God’s behalf. When that does not happen or happens in a way that actually scatters the flock, God is not happy at all. The promise to attend to the shepherds the way the shepherd did not attend to the flock is similar to saying, “Wait ’til [the authoritative parent] gets home.” To paraphrase Richard Nysse, writing at Working Preacher: If God’s people are hurt, then so is God. The interrelatedness of people in this passage is important.

{D2} Nature: As Molly mentioned, I don’t know much about sheep, but when this passage is read I can’t help but imagine being out on a grassy field somewhere, surrounded by “baaaaahs.” Then, leaning up against a tree in that field, I can’t help but notice that righteous branch sticking out there. I bet I’m not the only one who has that experience. If a passage makes that kind of impression automatically, I’m thinking it may be primarily Nature smart.

  • Smarts – Eye [07:41], Body [09:45], Nature [10:12], People [13:01], Self [13:48]
  • Jeremiah 23 worksheet   

 

Colossians 1:11-20 [14:18] – In this passage from Colossians, Paul reveals what kind of King the Resurrected Christ is – he is first. When we hear “first,” we tend to think of placement in a contest. While Jesus has won the contest between life and death, there really was no chance for the opposition, was there? Paul doesn’t think so – Jesus was first in creation and is first in the new creation. For Paul, there is no contest; the idea of competition is ludicrous. It is important not to fall into the trap of triumphalism here, because while we inherit the light of his glory, he is the one who went to hell to get it. In Word smart, we look at the two steps of Paul’s idea and have a series of liturgical pieces using this passage throughout the service. For Eye smart, we use verse 13 and suggest some ways of revealing an image using other images. Also in Eye smart, we consider spatial relationships between light and dark in stories of redemption. In Math smart, we explore a variety of ways the center holds together with illustrations and special effects. This one could bet a bit messy, so practice them beforehand. Body smart deals with physical expressions but includes some people smart practices. We look at new life emerging from old life in Nature smart.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [15:28] – 

{MWD} Math:  The logical equation in this passage is life > death. According to biology, this is not true. All life yields death, or life => death. But God (and as a good friend once said, the Good News always starts that way) works with a different equation, where resurrection nullifies death. So, ƒ(death) = {ø} where ƒ = resurrection. Or equations to that effect!! At any rate, God’s action in and through Jesus has brought about an entirely new reality where biological life still leads to biological death but the power of the resurrection trumps that reality.

{D2} Body: The lines that makes me think this is Body smart are verses 15 and 19, for starters. Jesus is the image of the invisible God in whom God was pleased to dwell. That just lights up my body brain! Add to it mentions of birth, death, … oh, and being head of the body! Finally, that the great act of divine reconciliation is accomplished by Jesus’ blood on the cross convinces me that this is one for your bod.

  • Smarts – Word [16:04], Eye [17:39], Math [20:09], Body [21:42],  Nature [22:56]
  • Colossians 1 worksheet   

 

Luke 23:33-43 [24:40] –  For the Sunday when we celebrate Christ as King, Luke gives us the pathway to coronation. It isn’t through campaigning for electoral college votes, or through strategic placement of resources, or superior fire power, or smart investment portfolios, or even raising a family that is happy and healthy. Jesus’ path to coronation as King starts on the cross. In Eye smart, we have suggestions to illustrate cultural and Christian images of Jesus’ royal realm. In Math smart, we look at chess and strategic plans that sacrifice powerful playing pieces for ultimate gain. For Body smart, we have some details about crucifixion’s effect on the body and an exercise that provides the barest hint of what it might be like. We have a Taizé chant for Music smart and some thoughts about pelicans in Nature smart. For People smart, we wonder who “they” are that Jesus asks God to forgive, and in Self smart we ask why Jesus seems to have given up hope.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [25:07] –

{MWD} Word:  We did not cover word smart for this passage in the podcast, but I came across some Greek translation questions that caught my attention and may be a way to start a discussion about the passage. In verses 35 and 36, people throw an accusation at Jesus about his identity. The Greek word “ei” is usually translated into English as “if.” If you are the Messiah, if you are the King, then save yourself. However, this same word can be translated “since,” which gives a subtle shift to what is happening. “IF you are …” suggests that the person leveling the charge has some doubt, and if it turns out he was the King or Messiah, that person can be forgiven for ignorance or at least failure of nerve. However, if the word is translated as “since,” the accusation reveals confusion about what a king is doing on a cross and ultimately is an outright denial of the claim, because no king would be found there.  

{D2} People:  When we think of the crucifixion, it naturally evokes Body smart reactions, but Luke doesn’t really go into any detail about the physicality of the execution. Instead, he writes about the interpersonal assault being hurled at Jesus: insults, taunting, mockery. The crowd makes it clear why the Romans used very public crucifixion as a means of deterring any would-be rabble rousers. But just when we think that Jesus is utterly rejected by all, one man makes a statement of faith and asks for his mercy, which Jesus promises to deliver. This scene is all about how we treat one another.

  • Smarts – Eye [25:40], Math [26:41], Body [27:10], Music [28:22], Nature [28:33], People [29:48], Self [30:19]
  • Luke 23 worksheet   

 

Links

… in Jeremiah  

  • Aerial view of sheep herding
  • LED sheep herding
  • Sheep run amok! (which would be a cool name for an alternative band) {Oh, this is close}
  • Shoots from branches

 

… in Colossians

 

… in Luke

 

Image Credit: Hand Drawn Crown from Clipart.me

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